You have more vaccine questions, and Lindsey Mendez — member of the county’s Vaccine Task Force — has more vaccine answers. Addressed: State equity efforts and how they’re being implemented here, Pfizer/Moderna versus J&J, the coming contract with Blue Shield to serve as statewide vaccine administrator and more.

Video above, rough transcript below.


Thank you for joining us for the March 11th media availability with Family Nurse Practitioner and member of the Humboldt County Vaccine Task Force, Lindsey Mendez. Lindsey would like to begin with a brief message about the Janssen or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Hi Humboldt County. This is Lindsey Mendez again, the Family Nurse Practitioner in Communicable Disease at Public Health. Today I’m going to come and talk about vaccine and I wanted to give a little bit of an intro again about the efforts that the public health department is doing right now with the Janssen vaccine. I would like the community to understand that at this time the Janssen vaccine being a single shot dose is going to be very helpful when we’re looking at rural populations who are having trouble coming into clinics and also with persons experiencing homelessness in shelters. We are currently partnering with our other health care providers in the area to get these vaccines out into arms this week and next week. So we’re very excited. 

From North Coast News: The health officer said earlier this week that some zip codes that fall in the lowest percentage of the CA healthy places index are in Humboldt and will be prioritized by the state in terms of vaccine allocation. Where are these zip codes located? How is this impacting our weekly vaccine allocation from the state?

Yes. At this time the state is using allocation tools to look at how we can have better equity in areas of certain zip codes. In this equity mapping, they are recommending that we use 20% of our doses in certain regions of Humboldt County. With that said, the regions are very broad. Around the county it is in areas where we are already vaccinating mostly. We are trying to get more into the Southern Humboldt and eastern regions, but overall the zip codes do include Eureka, Arcata and then parts of SoHum like Petrolia and Blocksburg and then in the northern regions like Klamath. So we will be working on that, just as we’ve been doing with our clinics.

From North Coast News: A new Israeli study shows that it appears Pfizer is more effective than first thought. Might this be the case for the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson? How was J&J able to get the level of efficacy in one shot?

The way that the Janssen vaccine is created with a DNA vaccine which is an adenovirus vector vaccine and the way that the spike proteins are introduced into the body, makes it a one-shot vaccine in that it builds over time and at this time it is not necessary to have a booster dose. And I will say this again: the Johnson Johnson builds slowly over weeks when you have it, which is a little different than the mRNA vaccine, but it still is a hundred percent reducing the severe death and hospitalization from COVID-19. With the Pfizer vaccine and the Israeli research that’s been occurring, because they have been studying transmission, really what we’re talking about with the Pfizer is that they are reporting how they are comparing the cases between the fully vaccinated and those who hadn’t been vaccinated at all and looking at how effective it was for preventing the transmission of COVID-19. This study was showing 90% at that time. So with that, you must understand that the research is still occurring with Moderna and Janssen and we will be getting more information as we move forward.

From North Coast News: Alaska has now become the first state to open vaccine eligibility to 16 years old. Do you think the criteria for getting the shot will change soon in California? How big of a benefit is it to expand eligibility to a younger age?

I understand that Alaska at this time has expanded their population and the state of California is looking at April 1st as a date that we will be expanding the population and who can be vaccinated in what tier. With that said I should remind the public that the Pfizer vaccine can be given to 16 year-olds, but no other vaccine such as Moderna or Janssen is approved for this at this time. With that said we will also remind the public that even if it does open up for a greater range of ages and occupations, we will be looking at risk factors and age as people are waiting to be vaccinated in California.

From North Coast Journal: Has the county received any more clarity from Blue Shield or the state regarding how vaccine allocation and distribution are likely to change once Blue Shield takes over as the third party administrator next month?

The public health department is currently doing meetings with Blue Shield and we are talking to our allocations managers and account managers who will be helping us with the allocation process in Humboldt County specifically for the providers in this area who will be giving vaccine. That allocation process will be going through Blue Shield to each provider who is able to give vaccine in Humboldt County - I should specifically say the COVID-19 vaccine in Humboldt County - and we will also be contracting in the public health department with Blue Shield so that we can be distributing vaccine through them. With that said, we do not know exactly how they are going to be breaking down their allocation process with the local health jurisdictions and also with providers and we will be knowing more in the next couple weeks.

From North Coast Journal: How does the state putting a focus on vaccinating residents in the lowest quartile of Healthy Places Index zip codes change Humboldt County’s vaccination strategy? How is the county working to identify and prioritize residents in these zip codes who qualify for the vaccine?

This is a great question and happily we have been working on these equity plans since the beginning of the vaccination task force when COVID-19 vaccine was arriving in Humboldt County. So, for the past few months we have been opening clinics in areas to ensure equity. We’ve been giving vaccine to clinics in Willow Creek and Garberville and in Redway. We’ve been doing mass vaxes in Arcata and in Eureka to ensure that we can reach populations that we wouldn’t usually get. We are anxious to expand our clinics in the southern and eastern regions and even in the northern regions to get populations who may have transportation issues. So we’re excited to see as we partner with Blue Shield how this will move forward with their performance equity measures.

From the North Coast Journal: Public Health reported this week that a quarter of those currently eligible have now been fully vaccinated locally. At the same time, the county announced a new class of eligible people — those 65 and older — with food and agricultural workers and people with co-morbidities expected to be eligible in the coming weeks. Are there logistic and equity concerns with making so many people eligible for vaccinations when supply remains so limited? If so, what are they and how is the county working to navigate those challenges?

This is a very important topic that we discuss daily on our vaccination committees. As we open up the populations who are able to get vaccinated, as wonderful as that is because our goal is to have herd immunity and end the pandemic, we are also very aware that there are specific people in our population who are the most vulnerable the most fragile and we must pay attention to that as the public health department and be good stewards of our vaccine. We are actively working on getting vaccinations to people who may not be able to leave the house very well or people who are experiencing homelessness and we’re also looking at how we can best vaccinate people who work in things like agricultural or factory settings. So this is something that we are going to continue to have active conversations about.

From North Coast Journal: If the county were to magically receive enough vaccine doses tomorrow to vaccinate every adult Humboldt County resident, what’s Public Health’s best estimate as to how long it would take to get all those shots in arms? Currently, what’s the county’s top vaccinations-per-day capacity?

Right now it is very difficult to give an exact number of what the top amount of vaccination per day would be because of the amount of providers who are helping us vaccinate in various locations ranging from pharmacies to hospitals. What we have seen is that when we do mass vaxes - mass vaccination clinics - around the county whether it be a public health department or other providers, we have noticed that our max capacity is a little over a thousand at this time for a mass vax clinic. With that said, other people usually daily are vaccinating in other areas at a smaller scale.

From KMUD: Can you speak to the different efficacy rates of all 3 approved vaccines?

Yes. At this time the CDC is telling us that the Pfizer vaccine is at 95% effective, the Moderna is at 94% effective and the Janssen is at 67%.

From KMUD: What is currently being done to ensure our Latinx community is receiving vaccinations?

The Humboldt County Public Health Department finds the Latinx community to be of the highest priority at this time. As I said last week we are actively recruiting people to work at our clinic who can speak Spanish and be interpreters and they can be vaccinators or admin or other staff that is necessary to run a vaccination clinic. I would like to reassure the community that public health is having many meetings at this time with community stakeholders to help us vaccinate everybody equally in Humboldt County.

From KMUD: Who are the preferred recipients of the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine?

Because of the recommendations by the CDC for how we might use a single-dose vaccine the best, at this time we have decided to utilize the vaccine with persons who may have transportation issues, they may not be able to see a doctor readily, or persons who work in certain facilities like agricultural centers and factories.

From Red Headed Blackbelt: Can you give us an update on how the vaccinations are being distributed in reference to the local survey that many people have returned, is the survey proving useful in helping to coordinate vaccine appointments?

Yes absolutely. From the information that I have been receiving from the Joint Information Center, the interest forms and surveys that have been filled out have been helping them fill clinics and getting people on wait lists. It’s also helped close the divide between those who may not have devices and need some assistance with scheduling. The Joint Information Center would like to remind you that you can go on their website at any time to look for the interest form in both English and Spanish at and again if you are having trouble you can call them.

From Red Headed Blackbelt: Has the public health department been receiving feedback from community members related to the recently announced planned closure of Redwood Memorial labor and delivery unit?

Thank you Kym, but no, that is not a vaccine question and I’m unable to answer that today.